The Creative Writing Concentration in the English Major
Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry. ~W.B. Yeats
The Creative Writing Program at Samford is grounded in the belief that writing is essential to understanding literature and reading is essential for good writing. Poets and fiction writers often advise young writers to “read all the time.” At Samford we actually put that into practice. All of our creative writing courses are hybrid in nature, which means that you’ll write a lot of short fiction and poetry, but you’ll also read a lot of poems and short stories and you’ll be well grounded in narrative theory and poetics. We also believe that good writing is collaborative, best performed in a nurturing environment with expert writers. At Samford you’ll work with active, publishing writers in small classrooms. Students often ask if good writing can actually be taught. Like the violin or ballet, singing or acting, writing is a craft with a long history of teaching and mentoring. In “The New Spirit,” the contemporary poet John Ashbery writes, “I thought that if I could put it all down, that would be one way. And next the thought came to me that to leave all out would be another, and truer, way.” Ashbery is describing what it means to make something, and writers are makers, artists who, like sculptors, learn what to chisel away or, like painters learn how to discover what isn’t there. Learn more about the program requirements.
The Charles T. Workman Award
The Charles T. Workman Award is available on a competitive basis to students interested in pursuing the Creative Writing Concentration in the English Major. The award is a one-time only honor of $1,000 for an incoming freshman admitted to the Creative Writing Concentration in the English Major. Funding may be used for travel expenses to a creative writing conference or workshop and will be distributed as needed by the Director of the Creative Writing Program.
Retired in 2009 after forty-two years at Samford, Charles T. Workman previously taught at Dillard, Virginia Tech, the University of Alabama, and Tulane University. He received his bachelor’s degree from Samford, attended the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and received a Ph.D. in English from Tulane. He was always a strong advocate of a creative writing program at Samford. He served as a past president of the Alabama Writer’s Conclave and for many years was a workshop leader and judge for the Conclave. He also served as an officer of the Gulf Coast Creative Writing Conference. His popular teaching emphasized his belief that, at their deepest, creative reading and writing are “soul making” (a phrase by Keats) experiences. His favorite poet is Wordsworth, loved for the truth-to-life of his internalization of Nature. His favorite novelist is Tolstoy, loved for his creation of life-like life-searching characters in real-life situations at every level of human existence and contemplation. He loves literature for life’s sake.
Visiting Writers at Samford
The Birmingham Consortium for Higher Education (BACHE) is a partnership among the five, four-year colleges and universities in the greater Birmingham area. The BACHE Visiting Writers Series hosts three well-known, well-published writers each school year. Past visiting writers have included Pulitzer Prize winning poet Natasha Trethewey, National Book Critics Circle Award winning poet Edward Hirsch, and National Book Award Finalist Brad Watson. Samford has also hosted legendary writers like Gwendolyn Brooks, Wendell Berry, Marilynne Robinson, and the Chinese dissident Bei Dao.
Samford creative writing students have gone on to prestigious creative writing programs like the Iowa Writers Workshop, NYU, and the University of Southern Mississippi. They have published professionally in magazines like the Kenyon Review and Blood Orange Review, and been nominated for one of the most elite poetry awards in the country, the Pushcart Prize. Samford students frequently read their work at the Sigma Tau Delta National English Honor Society Conference, where they have been awarded nationally for poetry and fiction. Additionally, our creative writing students have been accepted at professional summer writing conferences like the Skidmore Summer Writers Conference.
Creative Writing Director
Bryan Johnson, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of English at Samford University, where he has taught since 1995. Dr. Johnson is a graduate of the Ph.D. program (English, Creative Writing, Poetry) at the University of Denver. He is an active scholar-poet, and his work has appeared in the Paris Review, the Denver Quarterly, the Western Humanities Review, American Letters & Commentary, Free Verse, Thicket, and New American Writing. He was a semi-finalist for the Walt Whitman Award, and in 2008 he was invited to attend the prestigious Sewanee Writers Conference. Recently, he was a finalist for the Mississippi Review Poetry Prize. His scholarship on teaching creative writing was awarded the James Woodall Award for Pedagogical Scholarship from the Association of College Teachers of English in Alabama. Since collaborating with faculty at the University of Maastricht on a Problem-Based Learning Transatlantic Cooperation Grant, Dr. Johnson has lectured on the craft of teaching poetry in Denmark, at the National Endowment for the Humanities, and throughout the U.S.
The Creative Writing Program at Samford University exists to 1) train students in the arts of fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction; 2) foster development of genre-specific expertise; 3) train writing students in grounding theories of fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction; 4) enhance student interest in contemporary literature.